I was only 7 years old at the time, but it is etched strongly in my memory.
When the war broke out, our headmaster at my Jewish primary school - Mr Steinberg, I think his name was - held daily full-school assemblies each morning at which he explained to us children exactly what was going on – blow by blow. The atmosphere was solemn and electric.
He described to us how Israel had been attacked simultaneously by the Arab armies of the surrounding neighbour countries of Syria, Jordan, Lebanon and Egypt and how Israel was outnumbered numerically many times over. We heard how Israel was fighting for its very survival.
He set up collections in the school to send to help Israel to help the war-effort and urged us to give whatever we could. Children brought in all the money they could afford to put in the boxes each day. I think we said special prayers for Israel too.
We saw the maps of the war more than daily on the news on BBC which the family watched avidly. We heard how children in Israel were having to do the jobs of the grown-ups, like running the Post Office, as the adults were all needed for the war.
My father got involved organising blood donations for Israeli soldiers. I was deeply moved and emptied out my savings bank (which I had intended to save up for a visit to Australia) from my 6d a week (2.5p) pocket money and occasional larger gifts from grandparents. It came to just over £5 and I gave the whole sum to help Israel. I am not sure whether it tipped the balance in Israel’s victory but it was a big thing for me in those days – the equivalent of Bill Gates giving away his $47 billion.
The solidarity we felt with Israelis and the sacrifices people in the Diaspora were prepared to make for Israel at that time were astonishing and have never been repeated in my lifetime.
When Israel won the war after just 6 nail biting days – we really felt a miracle had occurred. We heard how they had entered the old city of Jerusalem and how the once-divided city was now united under Israeli rule. We heard how Jews could now pray once again at the Western Wall which had been barred from access under the Jordanians.
Looking back, I now see it slightly differently - we now know that following Egyptian and Syrian troop build-ups, the Israelis in fact attacked the Egyptian air force pre-emptively in order to gain the advantage.... Israel was prepared and boldly took the initiative and so it was far less miraculous than it appeared to us at the time.
- JonathanBACK to Diaspora Recollections